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bnt
17th Oct 2016, 13:09
This coming Friday will be the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan Disaster (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aberfan_disaster), the failure of a coal mining tip that killed 144 people. 116 of the victims were children whose school was crushed by the landslide. The official report was scathing in its condemnation of National Coal Board, for setting up the circumstances that allowed this to happen and for their poor response afterwards.

I've been reading Dr. Dave Petley's blog on landslides for years now, and he'll be covering Aberfan all week. The first part (http://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2016/10/17/aberfan-disaster-1/) is a summary of the events of the day, and is to be followed by more in-depth examination of the causes and reactions.

G-CPTN
17th Oct 2016, 13:26
My mother had a premonition of this (she was not a witch) and was distraught that she had no way to prevent it.

Because of this it remains in my memory.

onetrack
17th Oct 2016, 13:48
G-CPTN - That's fascinating. What did her premonition involve? Just a disaster of some kind about to strike, or was her premonition more specific?
I read a story once about a woman who refused to board her flight, becoming hysterical and claiming the flight was going to crash. The airline staff calmed her down and pressured her, and convinced her, to board after a period of time.
She boarded, and the aircraft crashed during the flight, and all on board were killed.

I can still recall the reporting on the Aberfan disaster, and my shock at such a disaster could not have been foreseen.
Waste dump wall collapses are common, worldwide, particularly where rainfall events are involved.
Water is a fine lubricant when it comes to soil, it's the reason you wet the ground prior to compaction, to ensure better compaction.

G-CPTN
17th Oct 2016, 13:57
G-CPTN - That's fascinating. What did her premonition involve? Just a disaster of some kind about to strike, or was her premonition more specific?

My mother was distressed by 'all the children' - and she was reduced to tears.
It was a long time ago and my mother is no longer alive, otherwise I am sure that she would be reliving the tragedy.

G-CPTNI can still recall the reporting on the Aberfan disaster, and my shock at such a disaster could not have been foreseen.

There had been at least one event where a cattle shed was enveloped and the cattle killed.

LowNSlow
17th Oct 2016, 14:41
I was 9 at the time and clearly remember my father, who was a primary school teacher in a Welsh mining village at the time, getting his shovel out of the shed and driving the 40 miles to Aberfan to help. He stayed there for two days and came back shocked to the core at the sights he had seen.

We watched the coal tips that overshadowed our primary school like hawks over the following days. They are now long gone of course after the NCB had a country wide program of removing the old tips.

Incidentally, a large amount of coal was recovered from the old tips as the methods of sorting good from bad coal back in the day was quite inefficient. I've heard that some of the old tips contained up to 30% coal.

eko4me
17th Oct 2016, 16:03
In the Geological Society of London's publically available magazine "Geoscientist" there is an article on Aberfan in the October 2016 edition (https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/Geoscientist/October-2016) called Tipping Point by Ted Nield that I recommend to you. Ted has a personal connection to the area and mine that he reveals at the end - his writing style is non-technical and accessible to all. It makes for somber reading and raises so many questions.

From Ted Nield ...
The Aberfan Disaster not only ripped the heart out of one small Welsh village – it sucked life out of an entire industry. The eerie silence that followed the landslide also fell upon the phrase ‘the heroism of mining’. This rhetorical chestnut had stubbornly survived its own debasement, in generations of political speeches, and still resonated with ordinary people. ­­­It passed completely out of use. Even ‘the dignity of labour’ seemed to lose meaning as a generation, in the extremity of its grief, cursed all their forefathers, threw down their monuments, and turned their faces to the Earth in shame.

hiflymk3
17th Oct 2016, 16:49
I was just 12 at the time and remember watching those terrible scenes. It still moves me when I think about it now.

Krystal n chips
17th Oct 2016, 18:07
We don't, as a general rule, seem to commemorate disasters involving tragic and significant loss of life in the UK, but Aberfan is one that truly should be, given the utter devastation it brought to the village with, as has often been said, the loss of a generation.

This one is different and always will be for the very obvious reason it involved children.

The black and white images from the needless tragedy further serve to add to the raw emotions felt, both then and now. The reports still move me to tears.

I can remember precisely where I was in my late grandmothers living room when she told me "they say a mountain has moved " and I reassured her that mountains didn't generally do this....I was 15 at the time.

Thereafter, as the news began to be broadcast, the realisation that she was, in her own way, bless her ( she was beginning to suffer dementia at this time and came originally from near Brecon) correct was sobering for me.

Hopefully, the commemorations will be presented with the quiet dignity the village and the bereaved deserve.

bnt
17th Oct 2016, 18:48
Yesterday's Sunday Telegraph had a piece on Aberfan too: Aberfan was a man-made disaster. 50 years on, we must remember this (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/aberfan-was-a-man-made-disaster-50-years-on-we-must-remember-thi/)

Aberfan was a man-made disaster. This is a fact that often needs underlining. No amount of dissembling and sophistry from the men of the National Coal Board (NCB) could disguise that central fact. There was nothing “natural” about it, nothing freakish about the geology of Aberfan, nothing uniquely unforeseeable about the deadly slide. It happened because of a mix of negligence, arrogance and incompetence for which no individual was punished or even held to account.

A follow-up piece in The Guardian today (https://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2016/oct/17/aberfan-how-a-gullible-and-deferential-press-failed-the-victims) focuses on the role of the media of the time, and there will be a documentary on BBC1 on Tuesday the 18th at 10:45 PM (or the next day in some regions): Aberfan: The Fight for Justice.

Windy Militant
17th Oct 2016, 20:24
I was only six at the time but still remember the effect that it had on the whole of Wales. It was indeed a man made disaster and I remember hearing my Mothers Uncle talking about it and how local miners had told management not to site the tip there as there was a spring in that area and how they were overruled with tragic results.

I watched the excellent Canta Memoria on S4C on the 08th October a truly moving piece.

Byth yn anghofio bob amser yn ein cof.

tony draper
18th Oct 2016, 16:49
Documentary on youtube.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vw40FKNaDVw

TLDNMCL
18th Oct 2016, 17:33
An old mate of mine was an apprentice carpenter-joiner in Merthyr at the time, and he recounted how so many people abandoned what they were doing to go and help when the news came out.

He was a tough old bird, and one particular day he began talking about his experiences there (I have no idea what prompted the subject to come up by the way). I remember him starting off all matter of fact about it, until he got to the part where he saw <heavy Welsh accent>"An 'and stickin' out through the muck, so I pulled on it - it was a little girl's 'and.."
The "little girls 'and" bit came out as a series of giant, tear filled sobs. Knowing the bloke as I did, and for him to react like that, I can only imagine what a dreadful picture it must have been for anyone actually there at the time.

wowzz
19th Oct 2016, 11:23
The money to remove other slag heaps was taken from the funds donated by the British public to the Aberfan charity that was designed to help those affected by the catastrophe. Shameful!

LowNSlow
19th Oct 2016, 11:47
wowzz that was scandalous. Robens should have been jailed

His evidence to the Tribunal of Inquiry was unsatisfactory; so much so that counsel for the NCB in their closing speech to the Tribunal asked for Robens' evidence to be ignored. He took a very narrow view of the NCB's responsibilities over the remaining Aberfan tips. His opposition to doing anything more than was needed to make the tips safe (even after the Prime Minister had promised villagers the tips would have to go) was overcome only by an additional grant from the government and a (bitterly opposed and subsequently much resented) contribution from the disaster fund of £150,000 (nearly 10% of the money raised).

AtomKraft
19th Oct 2016, 13:52
If there was ever any doubt about whether the UK Gov't were a contemptible shower of 'See you next tuesdays', the decision to sequester 150,000 GBP from the disaster fund, to remove what remained of the slag heaps at Aberfan should remove that doubt.

It seems the Tony Blair reimbursed the money in 1997- but without any interest- still, better than nothing I suppose.

And the 'shade' of Government that treated these coal miners so? Labour.

I'm no lefty, but truly working people in the UK were treated like scum- even by the Government most likely to be on their side.

Enough to make a man puke.

sitigeltfel
19th Oct 2016, 13:58
If there was ever any doubt about whether the UK Gov't were a contemptible shower of 'See you next tuesdays', the decision to sequester 150,000 GBP from the disaster fund, to remove what remained of the slag heaps at Aberfan should remove that doubt.

It seems the Tony Blair reimbursed the money in 1997- but without any interest- still, better than nothing I suppose.

And the 'shade' of Government that treated these coal miners so? Labour.

I'm no lefty, but truly working people in the UK were treated like scum- even by the Government most likely to be on their side.

Enough to make a man puke.

True, a Labour government (Harold Wilson) gave the money to NCB boss Lord Robens, who was himself an ex miner, then kept the scandal quiet under the 30 year rule.

ZeBedie
19th Oct 2016, 22:30
What was done with the material from all the spoil heaps when it was removed? Nationwide, it must have been a massive undertaking, but I don't remember hearing anything about it.

AtomKraft
20th Oct 2016, 08:24
Well, we had a huge slag pile- we called it the Bing- beside our school in Linwood.
It was no threat, but it was trucked away and used, I believe, in the construction of the M8.

LowNSlow
20th Oct 2016, 15:53
An American company came and removed three local tips. It was reckoned that the "slag" heaps were actually approximately 30% good Welsh anthracite.

Carbon Bootprint
21st Oct 2016, 20:15
A very thorough and sobering pictorial can be found on the BBC online edition:

Aberfan: the mistake that cost a village its children (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-150d11df-c541-44a9-9332-560a19828c47)